Thursday, May 5, 2011

Damn, It's Hot in Here ...

From time to time, a random Texas Café memory will pop up that makes me think back to the good ol’ days. I recently found myself complaining to a neighbor about the June-like weather we experienced in April and how I desperately wished our building would turn on the A/C.
Suddenly, I recalled a sweltering night at the Texas Café and a burning hot kitchen's role in uniting an entire kitchen staff in absolute misery.  If you’ve read It’s a Miracle They Ain’t Dead Yet, you know the story about the broken kitchen air conditioner. (If you don’t, the book is six bucks on Kindle—make it happen.)
Luckily, on that particular hellish night, I wasn’t on the line, which meant I was about five degrees cooler than the line cooks. But our kitchen thermometer was hovering at 135; we were gulping water from giant plastic to-go cups every few minutes.
I had two towels on my apron that night. One for hot plates, the other to wipe away the sweat beads that accumulated on my forehead. Wait until August, said Max, one of the line cooks. I reached for my second towel.
There’s gotta be something we can do, I said as I instructed Nelson, the dishwasher, to hose my face down with the retractable faucet handle. The other cooks lined up and instructed Nelson to do the same to them. Temporary relief.
Manny, another line cook, suddenly threw his tongs down and hoisted his arms into the air. Eureka! The old kitchen fan served no purpose other than to re-circulate warm air. BUT! If he put a giant bucket of ice in front of the fan, perhaps the ice would melt, blowing cool air through the kitchen.
We watched with great anticipation as Manny ran outside with a plastic container and filled it with ice. We stood in front of the old rickety fan and waited with eager anticipation.
And just like that, a kitchen crew once united through heated misery, returned to work slightly cooler than we were just moments ago.